Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dream Big (Permission Granted)

(Permission Granted)

These words appear on the gift of art that my friend gave to me. She followed that present with a journal prominently displaying a quote about dreams. “They scratch at your door… You think it might go away if you ignore it. Wrong. It’s still there when you open the door…”
I love to write. It clears my mind. My soul is uplifted. Scrambled thoughts somehow are organized through the written word. That’s why I blog. I say it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. If for no other reason than the healing this avenue does for my heart, I continue on.

But my friend knows me well enough to encourage the dream that sits waiting for me. For the longest time, it has been safely on a shelf. Beautiful to observe yet waiting for just the right opportunity to reach out and prominently display it for others. Never have I dared to touch it though. Fear of knocking it down from its place of importance only to watch it shatter into pieces has kept me at a distance.
I watch people who have a platform to encourage other women in deepening their relationship with God and find myself pining. My heart longs for the opportunity to spur others on toward love and good deeds. However, real life always gets in the way allowing me to easily shrug off my dreams.

My perceived reality exposes a high school diploma with no higher education to follow. I have no bachelors or masters or PHD to brag about. My oldest is still in grade school with two others behind her. My calling is here in my home. Did I mention that I can’t even keep my house clean? How would God ever entrust me with more when I’m not even faithful with the little things? These are only a few of the excuses that play through my mind debilitating any fantasies of a platform God may have for me.
When my church announced that we would be having a women’s retreat, my mind soared with visions of being a part of something so big on such a small scale. (The big being God’s work in the hearts of women and the small being group size.) I made known my willingness to be involved in the event and didn’t just jump at the opportunity when it was offered to me at a later time. Was this just my desire to be on stage or did God have plans for me in this arena? After thought and prayer, I embraced speaking on the topic of friendships. This has been a subject God was currently working on in my own life.

While encouragement to pursue the speaking engagement came through many avenues, my heart was far from settled as the weekend approached. Sitting among friends who focused on prayer while children played in the background, I shared my fears in pursuing my dreams. To speak such truth has a way of tearing down walls.
While doubt continued to terrorize my mind in an effort to defeat me before I even took the platform, I embraced the encouragement of my friends and held tightly to the Truth. Like Moses, who doubted his ability to be used by the Lord, I could cling to the promise that God would be with me. Believing God prepared me for that night, I confidently presented God’s Blueprints for Friendships to a group of fifty some women (not as small of a group as I had originally envisioned).

My dream is now off the shelf and I’m sorting through the box. It’s time to investigate just how to incorporate this rare commodity into my everyday life. It’s kind of like setting the table with China every night. I don’t want to waste the beautiful gift but I must to be careful not to destroy it.
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.” - Psalm 37:54-5

"A woman with a confident heart chooses to believe that God wants to make an impact through her life, and she looks for ways to let Him." - Renee Swope, A Confident Heart

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let. It. Go.

"Will you too accept the challenge of backing off on decisions about the holidays?" This came from author Karen Ehman in her email From Chaos to Calm: The Let. It. Go. Christmas Challenge. She discusses how a friend had challenged her to fast for three weeks from making executive decisions in her marriage and family... during the Christmas season. As I read how Karen allowed her son to decorate their yard and home for the Christmas season, I blew her off as a bit extreme. It's one thing to let your husband make the decisions in the home (which I have a difficult time embracing to begin with). It's another to give that kind of power to a child. Who does that? Not anyone of sound mind was the answer I gave myself.

I am the kind of woman who has to leave the house on Black Friday (which my girls have now affectionately deemed "Tree Friday") in big part so that I don't criticize the way my family decks the halls. When my husband called to interrupt my solo shopping trip to request that I stop and pick up new strands of Christmas lights, I surprisingly wasn't too bothered. "There are some special requests," he added. I knew the words that were going to come out of his mouth next. Maybe I was confident there was no way I could meet the demands of my children. Possibly, I was having an out-of-body experience. Either way, I told him I would see what I could do. My mission was to find one purple, one pink and one teal strand of Christmas lights.

If you know me at all, you'd likely say that I have a difficult time letting go of tradition. And Christmastime is filled with traditions my daddy established that I hold dear to my heart. My father was very particular about how his tree was trimmed. Just recently, my mom reminded me that he would purchase individual red Christmas lights to replace all the pink lights that came on the multi-colored strand. Maybe that has something to do with why I leave the house on "Tree Friday". For some reason, I feel the need to give direction on every part of decorating "O Tannenbaum". Yet I have no desire to actually deck the halls myself.

The few stores I was shopping in didn't bring success on my mission. I would have to leave the mall. With their large array of Christmas decorations, Menards seemed to be my best bet. Forget the fact that this was the very store I couldn't walk through for months following my dad's death because the smells of hardware and the sights of a carpenter's trade tore at my emotions. I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw the purple strands of lights in front of me. Here I was purchasing not only the pink lights my dad so vehemently detested but purple and teal (technically blue but they look teal lit up) as well.
I received a payment of smiles from my girls and husband. It just might be good to let go. Karen has a new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith. I think my family would highly recommend I read this book. One email allowed me to let go of a major hang up in my life. I can't even imagine what an entire book encouraging me in the same could do!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Hearts at Home Blog Hop

The Third Thursday in November means a Hearts at Home Blog Hop. Be sure to hope over to Jill's Blog to other thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Why is Thanksgiving important to you and your family? Do you have special memories? Traditions that you keep going year to year? Recipes that have to make an appearance? How is the holiday different for you now that you are a mom?




They hold so many fond memories...

And pain that attempts to seize my soul.

My Daddy was a man who embraced Thanksgiving and waited until it was over to celebrate Christmas. There was no "holiday season". It was Thanksgiving. It was Christmas. They were separate and they were special. He is gone. This will be my fifth year celebrating without Him and I still can't get past it... at this time of year.

I'd like to call myself a Farmer's daughter but people would challenge that definition. My dad loved to garden much of the 5 acres he owned. Still, it was far from living up to the definition. It was just more than an ordinary garden. There is a love deep in my being for the harvest. It was a family activity. The memories warm my soul and leave it terrorized all at the same time.

Traditions are important to me and over these past years, I've had to learn to let go. It's become more important to find meaning in the holiday rather than hang tightly to what used to be. A large family dinner attended by extended family is a bygone. Compromises are offered but it's gotten complicated somehow. It will never be the same.

We are exactly one week before Thanksgiving. One would be pressed to know the holidays are approaching in this household. If it weren't for the excited hearts of my children, plans would likely not even be considered.

These years have been a journey of letting go... and becoming. There are thoughts to start new traditions but we hold to them loosely. Part of me can't embrace anything that isn't quite as special as what used to be. I don't want my children to one day find disappointment in a holiday because they cannot separate it from the emotions of their tradition. Tradition is good. Just not the pedestal we tend to place it on.

Thanksgiving is an attitude I long to instill in my children as a lifestyle. This month is only meant to highlight that. Maybe next year I'll have more to offer. This year it is still simply about letting go.

Here are a couple of great ideas that have come my way in embracing Thanksgiving tradition:

Ann Voskamp's Thanks Giving Tree

Paper Coterie's Gratitude Jar

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Where's your Hope?

I voted today.

These were the words on the sticker my daughters wore home from school yesterday. It’s the second mock election since my oldest has started grade school. As a fifth grader this year, Nikelle had the opportunity to speak during the election as one of the candidate’s wives. She seized her role and, from what I hear, did a fairly convincing job.

This did not change her disappointment with those who cheered for the opposing party. She was upset that her friends and fellow classmates were not on her side. (My poor child is going to have a very difficult time when she is actually old enough to have her vote count.)

This morning I cast a vote to have my voice heard. I am so thankful to live in America where we have the opportunity to choose our leaders and have our say. Still, I felt defeated walking into the election booth. Not a one of the candidates truly represent me. I understand the thought of throwing our hands up in the air and saying “who cares”. However, when I look into the three sets of eyes that were given me by God and think about the nation they will one day live in, I can’t sit home.

It’s sad to think that this world can actually get worse. My heart hurts for my girls. It’s hard enough to embrace God’s Word and try to live by it on a daily basis today. What will it be like for them? I cling to the words of an old hymn. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

It was this very type of thought that I shared with my daughter in her frustration over the mock election results. Do we put our hope in Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or any other human being for that matter? She knew the answer was “No”. The only way to avoid feeling disheartened with life is to keep our hope in our Savior.

Let’s try to remember this no matter what the outcome of the election. Whoever is elected President is there because our nation, as a whole, has voiced their choice. Pray for our leaders. Then live your life to the full. We may not be able to immediately influence the President of the United States but if one person can impact one person in their life, who impacts another, who impacts another… that is where the revolution begins.

Change starts with me… and I’m choosing to put my hope in Christ.
"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken." - Psalm 62:5-6

"But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him." - Philippians 3:20-21

Monday, November 5, 2012

Don't leave God and the Bible at Home Tomorrow

I just found out this ad existed. It shocked me to see it is supported by the President of the United States. If you live with the Bible as your guidebook for life, you need to watch this. We cannot leave the God and the Bible out of the election tomorrow. Some may think this ad is funny. I just find it sad.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thanking Creator God

Living life in grateful response comes in recognizing who God is. With the awareness of God involved in every detail of my life, gratitude becomes part of a necessary relationship. Running a 5K becomes a conversation with Creator God as amazement of His design allows me to cross the finish line. The friends that join me as well as those who cheer me on are part of His workmanship to spur me on. These relationships are there to remind me of something greater.

The beauty of nature washes over my senses ushering me into the presence of God as I offer up praise to Him. Changing seasons with varying colors and temperatures along with the rejuvenation of the darkness of night and the sunlight of day are His gifts. A tapestry is woven together by the artist, God.

As I look at my family, overwhelmed with gratitude for the love surrounding me, I cannot help but thank God because it is He who made them. They are His blessings to me. Even the simplicity of a Saturday where no commitments are on the calendar points me toward my Heavenly Father. Relaxing with my husband and children can be embraced because He instituted rest.

If we are offering up thanksgiving without a thought of God, can it still be considered giving thanks? Who are we giving thanks to? What is thanksgiving without acknowledging The-All-Deserving-One-of-our-Thanks?
(The creation account in the Book of Genesis)

"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen" - Romans 1:25

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why Thanksgiving?

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.  

A Proclamation.   

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.  


No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.


I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.  


In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.  


Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.


 By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Grateful Response

Halloween has barely left our doorstep and Christmas music pulls at my heartstrings as I shop today. I don’t like the way this world pushes us past the beauty of November. This month is my favorite. I’m like my kids in that way. They would each choose the month of their birthday as well.

It’s more than that. Thanksgiving has an entire day set aside for gratitude. We humans have learned to feel a sense of entitlement for everything in our lives. It is so easily forgotten that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

This November, my challenge is not to set aside one day to give thanks (although I LOVE that we have a day set aside for this.) Rather, I want myself and those I love to realize that life is to be lived in grateful response for what God has done for us. Let’s truly acknowledge Him and thank Him for who He is: Creator, Father, Redeemer, Savior, Friend, etc.

In learning to live a lifestyle of grateful response to God, will we not also find the joy-filled life we so desperately search for?

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God.” (Psalm 50:14)

“Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.” (Psalm 50:23)